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Divorce decree makes son ‘dependent’ past age 18

A divorce decree that called for a father to continue paying part of his son’s health care coverage until the son was “no longer an eligible dependent” meant the father had to pay past the son’s 18th birthday, the Virginia Court of Appeals said on April 30.

The parties’ agreement, incorporated in the divorce decree, said the father was responsible for the dependent coverage “as long as such insurance is reasonably available to him through his place of employment.”

When the couple’s son turned 18 and graduated from high school in June 2010, the father asked the trial court to terminate the order requiring him to pay health and dental insurance for the son. A Henrico County Circuit Court denied the motion and ordered the father to reimburse the mother for one-half the cost of the son’s hospitalization insurance, including dental if available, for so long as the child was deemed a dependent, “per Southern Health.”

In an unpublished opinion by Judge Robert J. Humphreys, the appellate court said the clear intent of the parties’ property settlement agreement is that the duration of the father’s obligation is not defined by the son’s age, but by the availability of an insurance policy to the father through his employer, for coverage of the son.

Humphreys said the phrase “eligible dependent,” when used in the context of insurance coverage, does not exclude a child who has reached the age of majority and graduated from high school. The panel affirmed the order to pay in Kolmetz v. Hitchcock.
– Deborah Elkins

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